Between 1690 and 1720, pirates operated freely off Ocean Isle Beach – especially three pirates – Sam Bellamy, Stede Bonnet, and Edward Teach. One pirate who looted more than 50 ships from his vessel Whydah was Sam Bellamy who was often called “Black Bellamy.” Bellamy’s pirate career came to an end on April 26, 1717 when a bad storm sunk his ship and nearly all onboard died including Bellamy.

 

Another notorious pirate who attacked ships off Ocean Isle was Stede Bonnet who was often called “The Gentleman Pirate.” Stede Bonnet however made a big mistake on August 12, 1718. After capturing two large ships, he sailed into the Cape Fear River to divide up his booty with his men and repair his ship. But Colonel Rhett in Charleston heard about this and dispatched two warships – the Henry and the Sea Nympth. A furious battle soon occurred near Southport with twelve of Rhett’s men being killed and eighteen wounded by the pirates. However, nine of the pirates were killed and all of the others were captured and taken to Charleston and hanged for piracy on December 10, 1718.

Another famous pirate named Edward Teach, or Blackbeard, ambushed ships off Shallotte and Tubbs Inlets and all along the Atlantic coast. Blackbeard’s ship, Queen Anne’s Revenge, was one of the largest pirate ships to ever sail. Blackbeard used the Queen Anne’s Revenge to blockade the entire port of Charleston for a whole week in May 1718. However, while onboard another ship the Adventure, Blackbeard was killed and beheaded in a battle off Ocracoke, NC on October 22, 1718, the same year that Stede Bonnet was hanged. Two years later, in 1720, three more pirates who operated in the Ocean Isle Beach area were caught. They were Calico Jack Rackham and two female pirates – Anne Bonny and Mary Read.

 

The era of pirates off Ocean Isle was at its height between 1690 and 1720. This period of time coincided with the War of the Spanish Succession in Europe which began in 1701 and ended in 1714. That was a war where England fought both France and Spain and all three countries hired privateers to attack other ships. The War of the Spanish Succession spread to North America and many of these privateers turned into pirates and attacked and looted any ship they could overpower. Ironically, the year 1720 was the year that both pirates and Indians were virtually eliminated from the Ocean Isle Beach area.